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Open-source hygiene start-up nabs Sun exec

Mark Tolliver resurfaces to lead a start-up selling software that ensures proprietary and open-source software don't intermingle.

Mark Tolliver, an executive who left Sun Microsystems a year ago, resurfaced Monday to lead a start-up hoping to profit from a pitfall related to open-source software.

He'll lead San Francisco-based Palamida, one of two companies that sells software that lets customers ensure their proprietary and open-source software don't intermingle. Often, that intermingling could violate contract terms or get a company in legal hot water with open-source groups.

Mark Tolliver
Mark Tolliver

Palamida's rival, Black Duck of Waltham, Mass., got an edge in early publicity, Tolliver acknowledges, but the company's technology is strong. "The first order of business is to get our visibility up so when the short list of two is prepared, we're on it," Tolliver said.

Tolliver left Sun in April 2004 in a management shake-up shortly after Jonathan Schwartz was promoted to become the server and software company's No. 2 executive. Tolliver had been chief strategy and marketing officer.

Tolliver said his appointment is the beginning of an expansion of Palamida's staff that will include more employees in programming, professional services, sales, marketing and support. The company has 10 employees but will probably at least double that by the end of 2005, he said.

Future work will include automatic expansion of the company's subscription database and on new software detection methods.

Palamida also announced on Monday the general availability version 3 of its software, IP AMPlifier. The software has a better database, with about 50 percent more software signatures that can be used to fingerprint specific software packages, Tolliver said. It also includes a better user interface and a technology called CodeRank that moves stronger matches to the top of the list of results.

Tolliver said the software also can be used when one company acquires another's software--a tool he sorely wanted when Sun bought server software from Netscape Communications and built it into a package then called iPlanet and now named the Java Enterprise System.

"I know from my iPlanet days, when we took on those millions of lines of Netscape code and had no idea what was in there, I kept asking, 'Are there any tools to find out what's in there?'" Tolliver said. "That's an issue software companies have in spades these days."